Well, the Roland Burris saga just got a lot more complicated.
While the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that Secretary of State Jesse White’s signature isn’t necessary for Burris’ appointment to be valid, they also refused to force White to certify the appointment.
And we’re at an impasse–while Burris says he doesn’t need White’s signature and thus is entitled to his Senate seat, the Senate is continuing to insist he gets White’s signature, since–as a federal institution–their rules aren’t trumped by a state supreme court.
This is a classic conflict between the federal government and a state government, which is why it will probably end up in the federal court system and may even make it up to the Supreme Court.
There are a lot of legal questions that need answering–does Jesse White have the power to defy Rod Blagojevich? Is his signature necessary for Burris’ appointment to be valid? And does the Senate have the right to essentially exclude him if he doesn’t have White’s signature?
It’s pretty clear that–after his testimony in Blagojevich’s impeachment investigation–Senate Democrats don’t want Burris in Congress. It looks like their strategy is to delay seating Burris until the Illinois Senate removes Blagojevich from office, thus making Lieutenant Governor Pat Quinn Governor and allowing him to make an appointment of his own.
That, of course, would pose even more issues–if Burris is still in limbo and someone new is appointed, certified and accepted by the Senate, would they trump Burris? Or is Burris entitled to the seat by virtue of having been appointed by the Governor first, even if he was delayed in taking his Senate seat?
This isn’t as cut and dry as I first thought–I figured the Illinois courts would compel White to certify Burris’ appointment. Instead, they issued a ruling directly in conflict with Senate rules. So now this is likely to wind up in the federal courts, and we might even get a Supreme Court ruling out of it. But, for now, Barack Obama’s former Senate seat will remain empty.